1984 - Volume #8, Issue #6, Page #18[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Ever Heard Of Fainting Goats
This unusual activity is a common characteristic of the "fainting goat" breed that Hicks first saw four years ago while in Michigan to buy a pony. The lady who had the pony also had several "fainting goats". Hicks bought one and later came back to buy the rest of her herd.
The goats are black and white with spots, and grow to be about 24 in. tall. "One of the toughest things about raising these goats is convincing people that they really do faint. A stranger, a quick movement or a drop of the feed pail can be enough to cause them to collapse.
They usually stay down for about half a minute, then get right up," says Hicks, who now has a herd of 12 goats. He sells some of the goats and reports, "they're good-natured and a lot of fun. But they're also a lot of work, especially when they're having kids. The newborns are usually quite weak."
He adds, "The kids don't seem to start fainting until they're about two months old. If you crossbreed the goats the offspring don't faint. Besides fainting, they don't run very well. Their legs tend to stiffen up if they try to move too fast."
Hicks says there isn't any apparent benefit to their fainting. Scientists say it's a hereditary muscle disease, and have studied the animals to try to learn more about human muscle diseases.
The goats' history is somewhat vague. Scientific journals attribute the goats' U.S. origin to a stranger who, back in about 1880, brought four of the goats with him to a small Tennessee town. He worked for an area farmer for nearly a year before he left, leaving the goats behind. From there, the goats slowly spread throughout the rest of the country.
Some historians speculate that fainting goats were used by shepherds who put them in with their flocks of sheep. That way, if a predator - such as a wolf or a dog - would chase the sheep, the excitement would cause the goat to faint. The predator would then attack the goat rather than the sheep.
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